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BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS — AN FNQ AVIATION & TOURISM PIONEER

28 Mar

BUSHIES DC-3 BEING TAKEN DOWN FROM THE PYLON AT CAIRNS AIRPORT

ONE OF THE CASUALTIES OF THE CAIRNS AIRPORT RE-DEVELOPMENT WAS THE OLD DC-3 THAT HAD STOOD ON A POLE OUTSIDE THE DOMESTIC TERMINAL SINCE THE 80s — VH-BPA.

THIS VENERABLE AIRCRAFT FLEW KING GEORGE VI AROUND THE MEDITERRANEAN DURING WW2, HAD BEEN A U-S MILITARY TRANSPORT, FLEW FOR QANTAS IN PNG, AND IT FLEW FOR FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND’S VERY OWN AIRLINE, BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS.

THE LATE SIR BOB NORMAN AND A SMALL GROUP OF INVESTORS ESTABLISHED BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS IN CAIRNS IN 1951, AT A TIME WHEN MOST PEOPLE HEADING FOR THE NORTH OF THE STATE TRAVELLED BY RAIL OR SHIP. CAIRNS & SURROUNDS WERE A LONG WAY FROM ANYWHERE, AND THE LARGE SCALE TOURISM THAT SUSTAINS THE REGION TODAY WAS UNIMAGINABLE BACK THEN.

BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS OPENED UP MUCH NEEDED AIR LINKS BETWEEN CAIRNS & THE SMALL COMMUNITIES OF FNQ, KEEPING THEM SUPPLIED WHEN THE WET SEASON CUT THE ROADS. AND IT WAS REGULARLY CALLED ON TO SUPPORT THE AIR AMBULANCE SERVICE WITH EMERGENCY MEDICAL RETRIEVAL FLIGHTS. THESE SERVICES KEPT REMOTE COMMUNITIES & STATIONS VIABLE, AND ALLOWED FOR DEVELOPMENT & PROGRESS IN SOME VERY ISOLATED PLACES.

BUSHIES DC-3 VH-PWN CAIRNS 1973. THIS PLANE INSPIRED THE JOHN WILLIAMSON SONG PAPA WHISKEY NOVEMBER

BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS QUICKLY BECAME KNOWN AS “BUSHIES”. THE NAME HAS STUCK TO THIS DAY, AND PEOPLE STILL TELL STORIES OF ITS MANY ACHIEVEMENTS. BUSHIES PIONEERED REGIONAL AIR SERVICES AND TOURISM IN FNQ. BUSHIES SERVED THE STATE’S MOST ISOLATED PLACES, AND IT SAVED LIVES.

BUSHIES EVENTUALLY BECAME AIR QUEENSLAND, AND WAS TAKEN OVER BY TAA. IT CEASED FLYING IN 1988.

FORMER BUSHIES STAFF REMEMBER FEELING THEY WERE PART OF A BIG FAMILY, AND THEY CONTINUE TO STAY IN TOUCH. THERE’S A BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS RE-UNION PLANNED FOR APRIL 28 IN CAIRNS. IN 2008, I MADE A RADIO SERIES TRACING THE HISTORY OF BUSHIES BACK TO AN EXPERIENCE SIR BOB NORMAN HAD WHILE ON MILITARY SERVICE IN CANADA DURING WORLD WAR TWO.

CLICK ON THE AUDIO PLAYER TO LISTEN TO THE STORY OF BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS. 

EPISODE 1

EPISODE 2

EPISODE 3

EPISODE 4

EPISODE 5

A BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS DC-3 ONCE ON DISPLAY AT CAIRNS AIRPORT

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12 responses to “BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS — AN FNQ AVIATION & TOURISM PIONEER

  1. Robyn Ellen

    April 5, 2012 at 3:33 PM

    Richard, is that Bushies reunion on this April??
    Regards,
    Robyn

     
    • rdontheroad

      April 6, 2012 at 3:59 PM

      April 28 at Brothers in Cairns. Late morning start

       
  2. Robyn Ellen

    April 5, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    Richard, is that Bushies reunion on?
    Cheers,
    Robyn

     
  3. Billy Harris

    April 5, 2012 at 5:24 AM

    Hi Richard, I believe that there is a “Bushies” reunion planned in Cairns in April 2012. Do you know when or where? My Mum & Dad were the agents for Bushies at Lockhart River from 1976 to 1979 and would love to attend this reunion if possible. Also any contacts if possible. I have done a websearch for the reunion and can’t find any info. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance. Billy Harris.

     
    • rdontheroad

      April 6, 2012 at 4:03 PM

      G’day Billy: April 28 at Brothers Club in Cairns. I think it’s a late morning or lunch-time start. Lionel is the bloke organising. cairnsbushiesbash@gmail.com I have a number for him at the ABC office if u need call me on Tuesday 4044 2011

       
    • Robyn Ellen

      April 16, 2012 at 6:51 PM

      G’day to Billy Harris. Are you by any chance related to Clive Harris who work for Mitchell Aerial Services in the 50’s? I’m Nev. Mitchell’s daughter, Robyn.

       
    • rdontheroad

      April 16, 2012 at 6:55 PM

      Hey Billy

      Seen this from Robyn Mitchell? G’day to Billy Harris. Are you by any chance related to Clive Harris who work for Mitchell Aerial Services in the 50′s? I’m Nev. Mitchell’s daughter, Robyn.

       
  4. Robyn Ellen

    April 2, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    G’day. Robyn here. My father was Douglas Neville Mitchell who started Mitchell Aerial Services in (I think) 1956, when Nev and his brother Frank swapped a Wackett, cash and a Tiger Moth to buy the Auster (DNM) from the Aero Club.
    A friend has suggested I organise a reunion or something for MAS, but I think most interested parties might be either dead, or half-dead. 🙂
    Any takers??
    Cheers,
    Robyn

     
    • Ken Wales

      June 8, 2012 at 12:09 PM

      Robyn

      I currently own VH-DNM where she is hangared at Cabooloture. I would love to get copies of any photos you have of her, I say her but there is a note on the file I have that an Auster owned by the Aero Club was named “Tommy McDonald” and that maybe VH-DNM.
      Regards
      Ken

       
  5. Terry

    March 31, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    Richard, do you have any idea of what finally happened to the old DC3. Is it still in Cairns?

     
    • rdontheroad

      March 31, 2012 at 5:50 PM

      Hi Terry

      When they took it down, it was initially to inspect it and see whether it go back on display elsewhere at Cairns airport. But the fuselage was in such poor shape that a return to display was impossible. Last I heard the NQ Warbirds at Mareeba airstrip had the cockpit and nose cone and are planning to put it on display there. I don’t know what became of the rest of the aircraft but the Warbirds crew might know. Cheers
      Rd

       
 
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